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Repairs on Portland's Elk statue and fountain could hit $2M, according to a new study

The fountain was heavily damaged during the 2020 protests. Removing pending future plans.

PORTLAND, Oregon — This week the city shared an update on the Thompson Elk Fountain restoration feasibility study. The fountain could return to downtown Portland by next spring and cost upwards of $2 million to repair and restore, according to the Portland Parks Foundation.

The landmark was heavily damaged during the 2020 protests and deemed unsafe. City crews removed it and for more than two years it’s been socked away in a secret storage while the city estimates costs and plans out what to do with it.

In May, the Portland City Council adopted a resolution to restore and improve the fountain— then return it to Southwest Main Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue. 

“The fountain is made up of 50 pieces so we carefully looked at every one of them to figure out how to put Humpty Dumpy back together again,” said Randy Gragg, executive director of the Portland Parks Foundation.

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The study found that 18 pieces of the fountain needed to be re-built. The city also wanted the fountain to undergo seismic upgrades and get a new pump. The study estimated the cost for those improvements would be around $1.2 to $1.3 million. In addition, the city wanted to improve access and safety around the fountain by installing pavers to create a viewing area. These updates were estimated to cost $670,000 leaving the total estimate amount to nearly $2 million.

“This is a great public space and we just want to make it the best we possibly can,” said Gragg.

As for who would foot the bill, Portland’s Arts Program manager, Jeff Hawthorne told KGW the money would likely come from a combination of funds. He said the fountain is insured for $973,000 with a $100,000 deductible. The Portland Parks Foundation is also accepting public donations among other crowdfunding efforts. He said the remaining balance would likely come down to city council and how many if any tax payer dollars would go toward it.

“We’ve been making great progress,” said Hawthorne. “Portland Parks Foundation has done a great job getting the designs and we think the community will be pleased with what they see when the elk returns.”

The Thompson Elk Fountain is named after the former Portland mayor, David P. Thompson. In the 1900s he commissioned the now historic landmark to honor the Oregon Humane Society, which he co-founded. 

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Over the 120 years, historians have recorded around 30 major protests that took place at the fountain. An element that distinguished the 2020 protests, was the fountain basins were empty due to city mandates that shut down fountains during the pandemic. 

That meant the fires that were started there caused damage never seen before.

“We think the best kind of insurance policy against that kind of vandalism is to have water in the fountains,” said Gragg, noting that there would likely be future protests in the area. “There will be some graffiti treatment so graffiti could easily be removed… Our goal is to renew it, reinstall it, and make it a safer, more inviting public space.”

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